Storm Seed is the penultimate Sacred Band novel and it’s all you’d expect from Janet and Chris Morris – dark in places, complex and multi-layered, exciting and full of action, sad and yet joyous. As with all of these novels it’s not for the faint-hearted, those who like an ‘easy read’ or those who don’t understand the nuances and lyricism of these two writers. This novel ties up many of the plotlines from previous books; the complex relationships between the Sacred Band members, estranged though they are; the re-emergence of old enemies and old bonds; the reaffirming of loyalty and friendship and, of course, a great big fight😊
What I love most are the characters in these novels. Nikodemos, especially, is such a wonderful creation. He’s the most human, the most troubled and the most courageous. Of all the characters Niko loses the most, but is, perhaps, the only one who can truly understand what it means to retain one’s humanity and sense of self. Surrounded by immortals Niko understands mortality and death more than the others, yet faces it head on and doesn’t quaver. Surrounded by the immortal Commander Tempus, Jihan the Froth Daughter, and a host of more than humans Niko, Strat and Crit fight and work as only those commanded by an immortal can – doing more than they thought possible, for the love for Tempus and each other.
Past decisions and mistakes come a-knocking and when a half-god and Death’s Queen seek revenge a world or two are ravaged. Prepare for blood, for sacrifice and for loss in this book. But be heartened by the unbreakable friendships, the courage and the glory of the Sacred Band. Cleverly woven in is the land of Sandia – a place where the inhabitants plundered their land and seas until their world was mostly barren, their children born in a laboratory and a people dying the slow death of a world ravaged at their hands. Sandia is not so far from home for us. A warning and a lesson, perhaps. Tempus himself finds it hard to understand how a people could destroy their own world in such a way.
It’s a great adventure, a great saga and a great read.
Life to you and everlasting glory.
Author name: Marcelle Dubé / The Tuxedoed Man
*Please tell us about your publications. I’ve written and published many short stories, much to my surprise. I always thought of myself as primarily a novelist, but in recent years, I’ve written more and more short stories, sometimes at the request of a publisher or to meet a thematic need, but more often because an idea got caught in my head and wouldn’t shake loose until I wrote it down.
My novels range from fantasy to mystery to modern gothic to “women’s thrillers.” I find that no matter the flavour of the novel, most of my stories end up with a mystery at their heart. For instance, Backli’s Ford features an alien species trying to fit in on earth, but really the story is a murder mystery at the heart of a greater conspiracy. Then the Mendenhall Mysteries (including The Tuxedoed Man) are straightforward mysteries
Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter’? Definitely a pantser. I’ve tried many techniques for writing novels and learned that plotting is not for me. I’ve written beautiful plot outlines and never wrote the novels because I didn’t see the point. I’d already written the story. As a pantser, I never really know what’s going to happen next, and that keeps me on my toes. Of course, it also means a lot of backtracking to take a different path.
What are your views on authors commenting on reviews? Don’t do it. Step away from the keyboard. Don’t freak out the reviewers. They’re entitled to their opinions, whether they love your story, or hate it.
How do you deal with bad reviews? ::big sigh:: Every time I see a bad review, I have to go find my big girl panties and put them on. Then I get over it.
Sort these into order of importance:
- Great characters
Character is all. Period.
- Good plot
A close second to great characters. You need great characters, in a good story.
- Awesome world-building
Setting matters. Your reader has to be able to see, smell and hear the setting, whether it’s a house in a Canadian suburb or a generation ship heading for a new planet.
- Technically perfect:
Well, what the heck is that? I’ve never seen it and doubt I’ll ever achieve it. As long as I write a good story that resonates with my readers, I’m happy.
How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at? I don’t really like to research but I am driven by insecurity. When I wrote Ghosts of Morocco, I did a *ton* of research. I’d never been there, was unfamiliar with the geography, politics, culture, languages… I have no idea why I set half the story there, but that’s where it had to be, so I researched.
The wildest subject I’ve looked at? To date, artificial bovine insemination. You wouldn’t believe how they go about it…
What’s the best piece best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? Apply seat of pants to seat of chair. As in, don’t wait for “inspiration.” Write every day and exercise that writing muscle.
What is your writing space like? I have a ridiculously large bedroom, so I use a corner of it for my writing space. I use a long, narrow table and prop my laptop up on the Canadian Encyclopedia. On the wall in front of me are small cork boards with various cards, sayings and photos that inspire me. From the vantage of my writing chair, I can see the roofs of the houses across the way, and above them, Haeckel Hill and its windmills.
Tell us about your latest piece? I’ve just published The Forsaken Man, the fifth in my Mendenhall Mystery series featuring Chief of Police Kate Williams and her intrepid band of constables. I’m not really sure how I ended up with a series. It started with The Shoeless Kidand I found that I really liked the characters of the small police detachment in Mendenhall, Manitoba. Technically, the series is a police procedural, but it is very much character driven and feels “cozy.”
What’s your next writing adventure? Right now, I’m working on my second A’lle Chronicles mystery. The first one, Backli’s Ford, introduced the reader to Constance A’lle:
In the early 1700s, an A’lle generation ship crashed in the woods of Lower Canada. Survivors stumbled out of the wreckage to find French settlers working the land. While many of the colonists sheltered the injured A’lle, some reacted with fear and loathing. Two centuries later, nothing much has changed.
This is the world Constance, first A’lle investigator for Lower Canada, must deal with when she investigates the beating death of an A’lle boy in the small village of Backli’s Ford.
Set in 1911, Backli’s Ford follows Constance as she survives an ambush that would have killed a human, fights prejudice in the constabulary, and discovers a terrible secret that risks destroying the delicate balance that has endured for two centuries between A’lle and humans.
The second book, tentatively titled Plague, follows Constance and her sister Gemma as they work to discover who is murdering A’lle, and try to prevent a smallpox epidemic.
What is the last book you’ve read? Glass Houses, by Louise Penny—one of my favourite mystery writers. Right now, I’m halfway through Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck and while I’m getting a little freaked out, I can’t seem to put it down…
Are indie/self-published authors viewed with scepticism or wariness by readers? Why is this? I don’t think readers care if an author is indie published or traditionally published. As long as the cover is well designed and the story well written and well edited, why should they? Nobody buys their books based on who the publisher is. At least, I don’t.
Marcelle Dubé grew up near Montreal. After trying out a number of different provinces—not to mention Belgium—she settled in the Yukon, where people still outnumber carnivores, but not by much. Her novels are published by Falcon Ridge Publishing and Carina Press, and her short fiction has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies. Learn more about her and her published work at http://www.marcellemdube.com.
The Tuxedoed Man appears in Winter Warmer Bundle
Tales of the Seasons – volume 1
Title: The Kero’s World series
Author: Victoria Zigler
Narrator of audio editions: Giles Miller
Genre: Children’s stories – animals/pets
Main character description (short). Kero is a West Highland White Terrier, which is a little white dog with pointed ears.
Synopsis: This is a seven book series that provides a semi-fictionalized view of the life of the author’s own dog, with events described as they might appear through the dog’s eyes.
Brief Excerpt 250 words:
“Are we going walkies?” Kero asked in his most excited sounding bark. But, of course, the human didn’t understand him and only heard “bark, bark, bark.”
“Hush Kero,” the human said. “You’re coming, but please stop barking.”
“I’m coming? Horray!” Kero barked, jumping up and down excitedly, his tail wagging as fast as it possibly could.
“You have to wear your coat,” his human told him. “It’s cold out.”
That was fine with Kero, just as long as he got to go. Besides, he liked his coat. It was blue and green and made of a soft material that felt good against his fur.
Kero tried very hard to stay still while his human put his coat on him, but he was so excited he just couldn’t stay still for a moment. This meant it took ages to get his coat on him, but they got there in the end.
“You have to calm down so I can put this on you,” the human said, holding Kero’s harness and lead out to him.
Kero tried to calm down. He really did. But he was so excited about going for walkies that he couldn’t stay still. But his human was used to this, and eventually she managed to get his harness on him. Once that was done it took only a few seconds for his lead to be clipped to the metal loops on the harness.
At last, they were ready to go.
Why should readers buy this book (50 words max)? If you want to see the world from the point of view of a little white dog, this book is for you.
Book 1 – Kero Goes Walkies
Barnes & Noble: Barnes and Noble
iTunes: Audio Itunes
Amazon UK: Amazon UK
Amazon US: Amazon.com
Amazon Canada: Amazon Canada
Book Depository: Book Depository
Book 2 – Kero Celebrates His Birthday
Book 3 – Kero Gets Sick
Book 4 – Kero Celebrates Halloween
Book 5 – Kero Goes To Town
Book 6 – Kero Celebrates Christmas
Book 7 – Kero Crosses The Rainbow Bridge
You can also find the books on Goodreads.
About the author:
Victoria Zigler is a blind poet and children’s author who was born and raised in the Black Mountains of Wales, UK, and is now living on the South-East coast of England, UK. Victoria – or Tori, if you prefer – has been writing since she knew how, has a very vivid imagination, and spends a lot of time in fictional worlds; some created by her, others created by other authors. When she remembers to spend some time in the real world, it’s mostly to spend time with her hubby and pets, though sometimes to indulge in other interests that capture her attention from time to time. To date she has published 8 poetry books and more than 40 children’s books, with more planned for the near future. She’s also contributed a story to the sci-fi and fantasy anthology Wyrd Worlds II.
Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Victoria-Zigler/424999294215717
Author: J.M. Ney-Grimm
Please tell us about your publications. I write fantasy in which the intimate and personal intertwine with the great forces of history and culture. Most of my stories are set in my North-lands, a world inspired by the watercolor illustrations of the Danish artist Kay Nielsen. My novels include: Troll-magic, Livli’s Gift, Caught in Amber, Fate’s Door, and The Tally Master. I also have a handful of novellas (plus a few short stories), among them: Sarvet’s Wanderyar, Hunting Wild, and Winter Glory.
What first prompted you to publish your work? In 2007, I re-discovered Maddy Prior’s amazing song ‘The Fabled Hare.’
Listening to her powerful lyrics and expressive voice, I grew suddenly aware that time was passing, I was getting older, and I didn’t have forever.
The imagery of the hunter and hounds closing in on the hare made me feel as though death were snapping at my heels.
If there was something I really wanted to do, something I had not done yet, I’d better get going or I might miss my chance entirely.
I didn’t ‘click the publish button’ in 2007, but that year and that song were the beginning of my publishing journey.
Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter’? I do some of each.
I prefer having a skeletal outline at the start of a story. Doing without —pure ‘pantsing’—feels like walking a tightrope over Niagara without a safety net. Very uncomfortable! And yet…I’ve done it.
Once I awoke in the middle of the night, so afire with inspiration that I got up out of my bed to write the first scene of what would become the novel Caught in Amber. I didn’t work out an outline until I was a third of the way through the book!
More usually, I sort out the foundational plot line before I start writing. I need to know what happens, but (oddly) I need to not know how it happens. I discover the how as I write, and that keeps the story feeling fresh to me.
Even when I follow an outline, I always feel free to ‘have a better idea.’ Sometimes my outline writhes like a river in flood!
What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey? I’m going to pretend you asked me about my writing journey. 😉 Because there’s a piece of advice that I really, really needed and didn’t get, way back when.
For some reason, I thought that the process of writing was much more cut-and-dried than it ever could be. Why I thought this, I don’t know. Perhaps because I formed the impression when I was very young, at age ten or eleven.
But the result was that, when I sat down in my early twenties to write my great fantasy novel, and didn’t get anywhere with it, I concluded that I must not be made of such stuff as goes into the bones of real writers.
I longed to write novels, and believed I could not. I spent more than two decades believing this and writing poetry and story vignettes and gaming adventures instead.
And then I listened to Maddy Prior’s ‘The Fabled Hare’ and got serious about my creative aspirations. I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, did every last one of the written assignments in the book, and read several of the titles in its bibliography.
That’s when I encountered Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, and one of her suggestions set me free.
So the advice I wish I’d gotten? Find out how other writers do it! Not just one or two, but dozens. Ask them. Read biographies. Whatever it takes, find out.
Because if I’d learned that there are as many ways as there are writers, I might not have concluded so wrongly that I was not a writer. I might have been writing novellas and novels (as well as poetry and vignettes and gaming adventures) between 1980 and 2007. I might not have been so unhappy in my creative desert.
What are your views on authors commenting on reviews? Do not go there! Reviews are a reader space. What reader wants to write his or her honest opinion and then discover that the author of the book has been peering over his or her shoulder the whole while?
Sort these into order of importance: Great characters. Good plot. Awesome world-building. Technically perfect.
As a reader (not a writer), I want them all. If the characters aren’t great, I have no interest. If the plot is stupid, I get cranky. If the world-building is unconvincing, I get thrown out of the story. If there are grammar errors, I’m tempted to email the author with the necessary fix. Gah!
I believe I’m known as what one writer calls a ‘fussy reader.’ That’s being kind!
As a writer…what can I say? I go for all four. One of my writing mentors told me that I need never worry about grammar or word choice; in her words, I’m stellar at that.
My readers tell me that my world-building is so thorough that they feel like they are ‘watching a movie on the insides of their eyeballs.’
Another writing mentor says that plot is clearly one of my strong points.
And yet more readers claim that the relationship dynamics between my characters feel utterly real.
How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at? A surprising amount! I’ve heard those who don’t write fantasy speculate that fantasy writers need do no research at all: they can just make it all up.
Because my world is make-believe featuring magic and fantastical creatures, it is all the more important that I get the details of living there right. Horses better behave like the real beasts. The combination of wet and cold better be appropriately dangerous. Travel attempted under medieval conditions better be realistically inconvenient. And so on.
I’ve researched the horse sandals of the ancient Romans (horseshoes weren’t invented until 500CE), the forging of Bronze Age swords, the details of how fishes’ gills work, and more.
How influential is storytelling to our culture? To be human is to be a storyteller. We remember our past with story. We predict and plan for our future with story. We make meaning out of our present with story. We cannot be ourselves without story.
That’s an existential answer to a more grounded question, but I stand by it. 😉
Which authors have influenced you the most? I love the sense of wonder present in the fantasy of Robin McKinley. I adore the cultural creativity in C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series. The poetry of Patricia McKillip’s storytelling inspires me. And the great characters within the amazing worlds of Lois McMaster Bujold carry me completely out of myself.
What is your writing space like? All I need is my laptop! I prefer quiet, but I can write amidst noise and hullabaloo if need be. (I learned how when my kids were still little and would nestle against me while I tapped away on my keyboard.) When I had a badly broken foot (doctor’s orders to keep it elevated and bearing no weight for 10 weeks, so as to avoid surgery), I learned to write while semi-reclining on the couch. I got so used to this position that I use it still!
Tell us about your latest piece? My novel The Tally Master released in April 2017. Here’s a little bit about it:
Seven years ago, reeling from a curse in the wake of battle, Gael sought sanctuary and found it in a most perilous place.
The citadel of a troll warlord—haunt of the desperate and violent—proves a harsh refuge for a civilized mage. But Gael wields power enough to create an oasis of order amidst the chaos.
Set in the Bronze Age of my North-lands, The Tally Master brings mystery and secrets to epic fantasy in a suspenseful tale of betrayal and redemption.
What’s your next writing adventure? I’m really excited about the novel I’m working on now. Its tentative title is To Thread the Labyrinth. Here’s a bit about it:
Ohtavie de Bellay craves safety. Craves obscurity. She seeks solitude and secrecy and shadows. Because only hiding holds death at bay.
But Ohtavie fears that all her care—decades of prudence—won’t be enough. No, she knows it won’t save her.
One day an angry mob will come to drag her forth from her long retreat and stone her. Or pinion her within her refuge and burn it down around her. Or, worst of all, summon the executioner who will hold her unmoving with his enigmatic magic, while his great axe parts her head from her living body with brutal precision.
So Ohtavie lurks and hides and fights her fears alone.
Until that one day arrives, bringing…no mob, no stones, no flames, and no axe.
Just one sweet-faced girl who threatens Ohtavie with something more perilous still.
A gripping story of quiet courage and fortitude.
Is there a message in your books? I don’t deliberately include a message, but I suspect my most cherished beliefs seep into my fiction.
There is hope. If the first attempt fails—or the second, or the third—try again. How you do a thing will shape who you become, as well as the ultimate result. You are loved. There is beauty in existence. ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/315055.J_M_Ney_Grimm
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/J.M.-Ney-Grimm/e/B006QRFNAS/
J.M. Ney-Grimm lives with her husband and children in Virginia, just east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She’s learning about permaculture gardening and debunking popular myths about food. The rest of the time she reads Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones, and Lois McMaster Bujold, plays boardgames like Settlers of Catan, rears her twins, and writes stories set in her troll-infested North-lands.
- Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a fully-trained sorceress, though my mother sometimes forgets this. I guess I’ll always be a child in her eyes. I’m in my early 20s, trim, active, and healthy. I’m not particularly beautiful, but then my physical appearance has never been important to me. I’m not interested in fashion or the latest hair styles. I wear sturdy, serviceable dresses and my long dark hair is usually in a single braid. My eyes are my most interesting facial feature, deep blue with an exotic slant that people often compare to a cat’s eyes. I’ve never met my father, but Mother says I inherited his eyes.
- What is your world like? How does it differ to mine?
I believe your people would refer to my world as medieval and feudal, but those are political terms which we’ll discuss later. As far as the world itself is concerned, it is much like Earth, possessing mountains and lakes and oceans, and even deserts, though I’ve never seen one of those. The mountains near my home are tall and rugged and capped by brilliantly white glaciers.
- Is your world populated by different races? How do they get along?
The intelligent races of my world are humans and dragons. We have the usual non-sapient creatures. Domestic animals such as horses, sheep, cows, dogs and cats, and wild animals such as wolves and bears and predatory cats.
How do humans and dragons get along? Not very well at the moment. In fact, that’s the reason for my adventure.
- Within your culture what is the political structure?
Human society is made up of feudal kingdoms. My mother and I live in Glengorm under King Leofric. Our nearest neighbor is Rossal, which is ruled by King Dougal. Each kingdom is divided into hereditary holdings ruled by lords and their ladies. The common folk who work the land live in villages and are often represented to their lords by village elders who are elected by their neighbors for their wisdom and experience.
- What is your greatest fear?
I’m so afraid that King Leofric will declare war on the dragons of the ice aerie that I’m considering a rash action. Mother has advised me to stay out of it, to let Leofric and his counsellors deal with the situation, but if I have the power to stop a war, don’t I have a moral obligation to use it?
- Tell us why you’re embarking on this adventure?
To prevent a war between my kingdom and the dragons of the ice aerie, thereby saving my people. I don’t think King Leofric truly understands how completely outclassed his knights are by the dragons.
- Tell us about your family?
My family? I don’t really have one. It’s just mother and me. My father deserted Mother before she even knew she carried me. Mother is the bravest woman I know. She’s a sorceress, as I am, and women aren’t usually accepted for training in anything more challenging than the potions of a hedge witch. But Mother refused to be held back by bigotry. She fought to be accepted and finally found a wizard willing to train her, though he had his doubts. Not about her ability. He knew she was powerfully gifted, but about her commitment. He believed women were fickle. Too prone to fall in love and desire family and children. When Mother confessed her pregnancy, he sent her away and told her not to return until she’d been delivered of the child and found it a suitable home. Mother stood up to him. She would not hide her pregnancy for his convenience, neither would she give me up. She would continue her studies and raise her child. The force of her personality and her magical potential were too much for him. She remained his apprentice and I was not given away.
- Would you die for those you love?
Without a second thought. I’d rather not, of course, but if my death would save my people, I would sacrifice myself gladly.
- Do you believe in magic?
Of course, don’t you? Its power courses through my veins. My entire reason for being is the study and responsible use of magic.
- What is your greatest skill/asset?
My determination. Once I decide upon a course of action, nothing can deter me.
- What is your greatest weakness (we won’t tell).
I’m very stubborn. (Another name for determination.) Once I decide upon a course of action, nothing can deter me.
- What do you think of your author/creator?
She’s an adequate chronicler. She has told my tale fairly and well.
For the author
Books in which this character appears:
- Sorcha’s Heart (https://www.amazon.com/Sorchas-Heart-Children-Book-ebook/dp/B005GFIAQA/)
- Dragons’ Choice (https://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Choice-Sorchas-Children-Book-ebook/dp/B005LEMFY4/)
- Dragons’ Flight (https://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Flight-Sorchas-Children-Book-ebook/dp/B00BVNRJR2/)
Also appearing in Mythic Tales
Links, short author bio…
A prolific copywriter by day, Debbie Mumford has been published in WMG Publishing’s Fiction River anthologies, Heart’s Kiss Magazine, Spinetingler Magazine, and other markets. She has also published several novels, novellas, and short story collections, including the popular Sorcha’s Children series. Debbie writes about faeries, dragons, and the supernatural for adults as herself and for tweens and young adults as Deb Logan. Find out more about Debbie’s work at debbiemumford.com or follow her on Facebook: @DebbieMumfordWrites. Join her newsletter list at eepurl.com/bTXLhX to receive an exclusive FREE story!
Myth, Magic and Mayhem abound and today we welcome Fae, who shares some of her thoughts with us.
Name: Oh, I wish I could remember my name! I wish I could remember anything. I feel so… lost, knowing nothing of who I am, where I come from. Yesterday, when I was pretending to be brave, I gave myself a name. It feels right, but it might not be right. How could it, when I remember nothing? But… I’m Fae (she raises her chin) and I’m going to pretend to be brave again. I have to.
Which book/world do you live in? I seem to be trapped in a castle. It’s very beautiful, with marble halls and tall windows looking onto flowering summer gardens. But it’s utterly deserted; I’m all alone and locked in! None of the doors to the outside seem to even have functioning latches and hinges. And when I tried to break a window with a paperweight, it bounced off!
Tell us about yourself: (Name, race/species, etc.) When I look in the mirror, I look human. But something tells me I might not be. Oh, I’m not anything truly strange, like the creatures in fairy tales or the monsters in myths and legends. Yesterday I thought I might be the granddaughter of a goddess, but that’s not it either. I’m trying to figure it out, because I think that if I can only remember something, that’s the key to escaping this castle and finding… home? Oh, I wish I could go home, wherever home is! (She raises her chin again.) But I’ll do it. I’ll figure it out. I won’t give up.
I’m an adventurer – why should I recruit you to accompany me? Adventurers… (Her tone is musing.) I always thought they were ne’er-do-wells, the black sheep of their families. But sometimes they’re soldiers of fortune, aren’t they? I wonder if a soldier—a warrior—could help me? I don’t think so. This castle, this situation, is a puzzle, not a battle. And I’m going to solve it. (She sighs.) But I wish someone were here. Besides me. It’s so lonely. I miss my friends, even though I can’t remember who they are. Oh, I hate this!
Tell us about your companions? How do they see you? I know I had friends. Maybe a band of girls my age? How old am I anyway? Maybe fourteen? Maybe sixteen? I don’t know! But it’s something like that. I think we spent a lot of time out of doors, rambling in the woods, running races, practising archery? Someone else was the fastest in the foot races, but I was the best with bow and arrow! Oh, I miss the outdoors! I hate this castle and being pent inside from dawn to dusk!
What’s your most heroic exploit to date? Ha! I don’t think I’ve had time to be a hero! I’m too young. But, guess what? I think I’m being a hero now. Something has happened to trap me in this place, and I don’t think I’m the only one affected, even though I’m the only one here. Somewhere that I can’t see, that I don’t even know about, there are people I love in trouble. If I can just solve this puzzle… I’ll get out and go help them! Whoever did this to me (she raises that chin again) is going to be sorry!
What’s your greatest failure? I think I failed at something important. Something really important. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t. I think I betrayed… not someone else. Never someone else. But I might have betrayed myself. I might have… consented to something? To a punishment? When I should have fought it tooth and nail? Oh, I wish I could remember! This is horrid!
Where do you think you’ll be in a decade? I’ll be out of here! I’ll escape! I’ll rescue my cousins! Oh! I remembered something! I have cousins! (She does a little dance step of jubilation.) One of them… Athena? Athena was studying military history. Oh! I have an uncle! Uncle Leander was.. a blacksmith? No, that’s not right. He knew smithing. And he was good at it! But he was so much more. I can’t remember. (She grits her teeth.) I can’t remember, but I am remembering! And I’m going to remember more!
Do you have a great love? (This could be a person/trait/item) I loved someone. I know I did. Besides my friends. And my cousins. And my uncle. I almost think I loved… Was she my aunt? I saw her so clearly in my mind’s eye yesterday. She was pale and stern and garbed in a sweeping black velvet gown as she admonished me to never open that quaint pointed door in the corner while she was gone. Did I open it? Is that why I’m here? Or did I fail to open it? And is that failure why I’m here? I wonder if that door… might be somewhere in this castle? (Her eyes light.) I’m going to go look!
Fae is the heroine of the novel Caught in Amber by J.M. Ney-Grimm
Amazon US: Caught-Amber-J-M-Ney-Grimm Amazon
Amazon UK: Caught-Amber-J-M-Ney-Grimm Amazon UK
Apple: Caught in Amber – I tunes
Kobo: Caught in Amber – Kobo
Barnes & Noble: Caught in Amber – Nook
Smashwords: Caught in Amber – Smashwords
Universal Books2Read: Caught in Amber – Books2Read
Bundle Rabbit Caught in Amber – Bundle Rabbit
*Name: Hello, my name is James Watkins
*Tell us a bit about yourself: I live in sunny San Diego California, which has been my home since 2011. I took a long time to find my home in voice work, but this year has seen the completion of my home studio, and I’m never looking back! I love reading, singing and writing songs, hiking, and playing in the ocean.
How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? I am a lifelong lover of reading. I really enjoy being able to explore through words and ideas. Because I am a bit of an amateur musician, I ended up with some simple recording equipment at home. When it first occurred to me to combine reading and recording it seemed natural and perfect. I am so glad to be living in this time where I am able to bring these things together in such a simple way. I have had a learning curve, too, but it’s a good thing that I also love to learn new things!
Tell us about some of the titles you’ve narrated. Do you have a favourite amongst these? I recently narrated a series of four short books for kids, called “Degu Days”, written by Victoria Zigler. They are short but wonderful tales written in the voice of pet degus. They are small South American rodents who are amazing jumpers, and extremely charming little creatures. Victoria Zigler is a talented writer whom I think is well worth reading. Her stories beautifully capture the simple perspective of the young, but there are serious matters she deals with powerfully in the space of a very short story, too. Degus are cute fuzzy little creatures, but a lot of kids learn some of their earliest lessons in caring for a pet from small animals like these, and are even introduced to their first experience of what death is through living with these lovely, innocent animals. A lot of people say that reading stories really helps develop children’s capacity for empathy, and seeing things from another perspective, and Victoria has a nice touch with this stuff. Her books are true literature, aimed at meeting children where they are, and gently, kindly, lovingly helping them to grow and understand.
Do you have a preferred genre? Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? Being able to do lots of different stuff is a big part of what keeps things interesting! I like to do kids stuff, science fiction and fantasy, history, business, self-help, Christianity, medicine and life sciences, earth sciences, criticism, meditation. These are just some examples of things I’ve worked on recently. What’s really important to me is good writing. Good writers are a treasure, and I am excited to be able to help take something great and bring it to a wider audience.
What are you working on at present/Just finished? I’m pretty excited to be putting together a podcast of spooky stories right now, called the bonefire. The first episodes are going to be ready to go in the next few weeks. It’s exciting to have my very own project.
*Tell us about your process for narrating? (Be as elaborate as you like.) First, I’ve got to read and understand. I take notes, use a highlighter, draw little pictures and maps, so that I have a really strong sense of the voices, the arc of the story or the structure of what is being written about, and what the tone of the writing is.
Then it’s time to read and record. I like to read in the later part of the day. For some reason my voice gets more and more limber as the day goes on. I like to be active when I read, and probably look very silly waving my arms around. Taking lots of little breaks is important, too. Focusing and refocusing, so that I’m always fresh. Between what the writer has done and what I can do, there’s a lot of life you can give to a piece of writing. It’s important to pay close attention to that aspect, and give it what it really deserves.
The last step is editing, taking out any mistakes or things that don’t sound right. Then I process the signal. There’s not much processing an audiobook reader has to do compared to what some other kinds of voice artists have to do. This work is technical and procedural, but the truth is that it’s more about finesse than anything. It’s all about trying to get the best sound you can.
What aspects do you find most enjoyable? So many things! I have the attitude of a craftsman. The pursuit of perfection is what really gets me excited more than anything. Making something well is time well-spent, and being engaged with great material inspires me. Being able to read and really explore other people’s ideas and stories is pretty wonderful, too.
Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this?Of course I consider royalty share! Like anybody else, I’ve got to pay my bills and make money. But if a project comes along that I really want to do, and I believe in it, then for me, it’s worth it. I’m doing a job, and work is not all about fun and games. But I’m blessed to be able to do a job that gives me the opportunity to do a wide variety of things that I can get excited about, and to make choices about what kinds of projects I take on.
Do you listen to audiobooks? I started listening to audiobooks at the same time I realized how much is becoming available, how many great books there are being produced in audio format, which was also the same time I decided I wanted to do it myself.
*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? It certainly is an exciting storytelling form today. And I think it will be even more interesting tomorrow. There is a lot of room for growth and development in audiobooks, and we are just starting to scratch the surface now. Human beings will always find new and exciting ways to tell stories. It’s what we do.
Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular? It’s easy to understand why on a practical level people like them so much. We like to have something that engages our minds when our hands are busy. We have the opportunity to learn, to be engaged, and entertained while we are driving, or doing chores, or working, or we want something to keep the kids’ attention. But it’s also great to realize that as this art form emerges, we are hearing better and better storytellers all the time. The audience that writers can reach is a lot bigger, and the narrators who produce these books are honing their craft. It’s an art form that has a lot of room for creative people to really show what they can do, and people love to be engaged by something that fits into their lifestyle.
Can you remember the first audiobook you owned? I sure can! It was The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs. I knew my love affair with audio books was going to be a long one, and I thought it was only right to start out with a classic that I had been meaning to read for a long time. I have lived in a number of different cities, and had a lot of things to compare as I listened to Jane Jacobs eye-opening insights into urban planning. Donna Rawlins was such a fantastic narrator for this book. From the beginning, I was listening to it thinking, “I want to do this”, so I listened very carefully to her consistency, her tone, the cleanliness of her enunciation and production. I chose my first audiobook carefully.
Has ACX/Audible fulfilled your expectations? (such as earnings, ease of use, workload etc.?) Well, I’m not making a living from it (yet?) but I have had really nice interactions with everybody I’ve dealt with from authors to the folks at ACX. They have created an effective and well-made interface that puts authors together with narrators. There is a range of quality that is available, but it puts tools in the hands of people, allowing them to create something for their audience. It’s a lot of work to produce an audiobook, but it’s hard to imagine that there’s anything ACX/Audible could do to make it any easier!
Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? Nope. I’ve found myself overwhelmed, certainly. But so far it’s been all positive.
Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. I have a tuxedo cat named Clarence who workshops my voices with me. Every new voice I try gets run by him first of all. He doesn’t give much feedback, but he’s a great listener.
Where can we learn more about you?
Social Media links:
Coming soon! Homemade, chilling and scary audio stories! Keep your eye on thebonefire.com for the first ones to appear in the near future!
If you are interested in having your project narrated and produced by James Watkins, you can find my profile on acx.com or email email@example.com
Today we welcome author Ron Vitalie – who brings with him some awesome tips for indies.
How to Get Rich in Indie Publishing: Marketing Tips for Authors
By Ron Vitale
Catchy title, right?Unfortunately, only a tiny number of indie authors have cracked the $100,000+ club on Amazon. In his May 2016 report, Data Guy reported that “1,340 authors are earning $100,000/year or more from Amazon sales. But half of them are indies and Amazon-imprint authors.”
With millions of ebooks competing for readers’ attention, there is a lot of supply, and demand is hot or cold—depending on your genre. A literary memoir? Probably isn’t going to earn you $100,000. Putting out one military science fiction book every month over the next year, odds are better that you’ll earn money with this strategy (for the short term).
I’ve been an indie author since 2011 and continue to struggle to make a profit off of selling my books. With my full-time day job, I release a book once or twice a year. My strategy has been to slowly build up my backlist and increase my readership over time.
I only know a few people who have struck gold being an indie author and many of them have since left the industry. Fads come and go. But writing good books and learning effective marketing strategies will help you succeed for the life of your author career.
Long gone are the gold rush days of indie publishing. The market has matured and what worked then (free days on KDP select), does not work today. Instead of getting frustrated, you have three options:
- Adapt and learn new skills
- Give up
- Or worse: keep doing the same things and don’t change
Write and Keep Writing
The best advice that I can share is for an author to keep writing. This advice is often given, but I don’t know if authors take it to heart. Writing means that: Keep writing books. Devise series, different genres, experiment and allow your creativity to fly free. If the only reason why you’re writing is to make money, well, there are much easier ways to be successful.
Writing novels or short stories is great, but an author also needs to know how to write effective book descriptions, ad copy, email autoresponders and other marketing promotional materials. If you can’t do that, then hire a virtual assistant, learn how to do it or barter with another author.
In my experience, the authors who are doing the best (yes, this is a generalization) are those who are publishing books on a regular basis.
For me, this means that I don’t just write when I feel like it. No. I have a schedule and stick to it no matter what. If I’m sick or something comes up with the kids, I make the time up. To hold myself accountable, I do two things:
1. I tell my family and friends that I’m writing a book.
2. I track all the words I write in a Google sheet.
I used to write when the “muses came to me.” Then I wised up. I don’t go to work at my full-time job when I feel like it. I go because I want to be productive and earn a paycheck to provide for my family.
It took me a long time to understand this and to wrestle with not wanting to put my butt in the chair and do the work. But now I have 8 novels published and 2 more in the works.
Writing, like tennis or running, is all about mind over matter. It’s like a mental game.
If you believe you can’t do it, then you’ll fail. But if you work hard, get better, keep plugging away, chances are that you’ll still fail (since few authors earn back the money they put out to make the book), but that’s where marketing comes in.
First step is to write books and to keep on doing that.
Be a Unicorn
Now that you have a book ready to share with the world, what do you do?
Write the next book and then the third.
If I could pass anything that I’ve learned to new authors, it would be to think like a marketer.
When I published my first book, Lost (Cinderella’s Secret Witch Diaries), I fantasized that I would release it and I’d be raking in the money. Everyone would love my book. I worked hard, published the book and my dream fell flat. I think I tried to fly without wings and hit the concrete hard. Thankfully, I could still pick myself up, learn from my mistakes and keep writing.
The mistake I made is a classic one: I only had one product to sell. I used my five free days on KDP Select to give my book away and there was nothing else for readers to buy. I didn’t have an email list, I didn’t have autoresponders created, a funnel, an editorial calendar or email strategy that would help promote my brand.
I had none of that.
I only had a desire to write, but no idea how to get there. For the last five years, I’ve read, studied, experimented and watched more training sessions than I can remember. And that learning is never going to end. I need to keep evolving, learning and growing.
I like that because that fits nicely with my personality. I love learning.
To succeed, I recommend becoming a unicorn: An author who not only can write good books, but knows how to connect with people and apply that to marketing.
Email Equals Love
If you’re looking where to spend your energy, then the choice is simple: Build your email list. I use Mailchimp, love it (though it does get expensive) and I took the time to build out a 6 part autoresponder chain.
Either through Instafreebie or my website, I offer a reader a free book if they sign up on my email list. Once they signup, they receive (over 6 weeks) an email every week on topics related to what my brand is.
My mission (branding statement) is simple:
I believe that, no matter how difficult our childhood, we can use imaginative stories to heal ourselves and lead lives filled with love and hope.
The characters in my books reflect and live that theme. After users receive my emails, I then start sharing my bi-monthly newsletter. Some readers love it and write to me while some unsubscribe. But that’s a good thing because I want to make certain that my list contains people who are into what I stand for and what I write about.
It’s taking much longer than I had expected, but building the list organically is a slow burn.
To start out, ask yourself: What value can you give to readers that will make your emails stand out?
How does one actually do that with readers? It’s pretty simple if you stop and think about it.
- Ask people what they want.
- Provide good and useful content on a regular basis.
- Open up to your readers: Be authentic (and sometimes vulnerable)
I like to think of things this way: If I meet someone for the first time and they shake my hand and say: “Would you like to buy my book? It’s on sale for $.99.” Well, I’d slowly walk away from that person.
Just because someone gives you their email address doesn’t mean that they want to be spammed by you.
Not only is that type of marketing unsuccessful, but most readers tune that out. Especially in the area of social media, there’s the 90-10 rule:
90% of the time, share content that’s helpful and useful to people. The other 10%, you can promote your own work.
I highly recommend that you sign up to Seth Godin’s email list and read his books if you haven’t already. His marketing style is honest, helpful and is a great model for what works. Every single day I read the short email he sends out. Over time, I’ve come to look forward to his emails because I learn something and find them useful. It’s not just him trying to sell me a book or a class. Yes, he does do that (very infrequently), but he provides not only good content, but writing that causes me to question why I’m doing what I’m doing. He’s upbeat, personable and extremely relatable with his posts.
When I first started my email list, I sent out emails when I remembered. I was scattered, had no editorial plan and no idea what to write about. I’ve come a long way in the last year. I now send an email out every two weeks (I chose this because the majority of my readers picked this option in a survey I had sent to them) and I share updates on my creative process, but have found that the most popular emails are those that relate to my brand—personal stories about my upbringing that I share with readers.
I’ve had people from all over the world respond with their own stories and it allows me to see how interconnected we all are. I’m not alone and neither are those who also went through difficult childhoods. That commonality is a thread that binds us together and by sharing our stories, we own them and can heal rather than being poisoned and trapped by the difficulty we grew up with as kids. That’s a heavy topic to sometimes discuss and share, but it’s also what I believe is needed in today’s world. I was tired of feeling ashamed and decided to talk about my past in a way that was not only healing for myself, but for others. The benefit is that I not only get to connect with people from around the globe, but readers get a glimpse into what my writing style is like and what I write about. It’s honest and true.
I once believed that if I just wrote my heart out that my book would be “discovered” and I’d be selling copies easily. That didn’t happen. Yes, some authors have had success like that, but that’s not happened to me and to thousands like me. The reality is that authors need to juggle multiple hats and not only need to know how to write, but we need to also market our books.
Today we have Amazon (AMS), Facebook, Google, Bookbub and dozens upon dozens of other options out there. Some authors swear that this one technique on this certain platform works. Others say it doesn’t work.
Unfortunately, the only way to know what does (or doesn’t) work for you is to experiment. I’ve not had success with Facebook ads, but know that others have. The possibilities are tremendous because we can target people by demographic, location and interest. You could even send an email to your readers and then retarget them via Facebook, so that they’d see an ad for your book that way as well.
The big question is: How much are you willing to invest in marketing?
And when I say invest, I don’t refer just to money, but also to time. If you have unlimited funds, then you can hire a virtual assistant to run this all for you. And if you have that type of money, you probably aren’t in need of this article.
The biggest benefit is that authors can (and do) help each other. Email swaps, webinars, blog posts with actual sales numbers, there’s more information out there than there is time. I find that to be my biggest challenge. As I learned back in 2015, I can’t work full-time, raise two kids with my wife, be an author popping out books every few months and learn everything I need to know about marketing. I tried that and nearly imploded. I failed because I tried to take too much on. I need sleep, mental rest, time to have fun with my family and friends, and room to breathe. I can’t have every second of every day scheduled for work. That type of commitment nearly broke me and wasn’t healthy for me or my family.
It’s the dark side to being an indie author that many don’t talk about. We read and see all the success stories, but what about the failures? That’s where I come in. I share what I’ve been through because I think it’s important to give a true rundown of what I’ve experienced (and what many others are experiencing as well).
In my book, How to Become a Successful Author While Working Full-time: The Secret to Work-Life Balance, I go into detail about my personal experiences from the last six years of trying to figure out how to be an author in today’s vastly changed publishing landscape. I share it all—the highs and the lows.
Even if you have had success, maintaining that over years and decades will be hard. The challenge is being flexible and continuing to learn.
In 2017, without a sound marketing strategy, I think it’s extremely rare that a new indie author will find financial success. For me personally, I had some success in the early years, but as I’ve needed to grow my business, I’ve had to spend more on services to keep my business running.
Now I need to pay for website hosting, editing, covers, Mailchimp, advertising, and a bunch of other fees. I track how much I spend and how much I earn and there’s no shame in my sharing that I’m struggling. It’s the truth because I’m making choices to invest in my business and those expenses need to be spent or I cannot grow to where I want to be. I’m investing in my future because I see great potential in the long term.
No matter if you’re extremely successful as an indie author or just starting out, all of us will need to adapt and change. Maybe Amazon will change KNEP again or another service will rise up while others go extinct (I see your days numbered, Nook). We have virtual reality, augmented reality and who know what other “reality” is coming down the pike. Change will continue to happen and disrupters (like the Amazons of the world) will continue to affect the publishing industry.
The challenge for us as authors is to hold two incongruent ideas in our mind at the same time: We need to be as creative and inspiring as we can with our fiction but also need to understand marketing and its implementation in the real world.
Sometimes those two ideas will war with each other. I personally don’t believe that we only write to market. Someone will need to take a risk and try something different. Remember Harry Potter? The Twilight Series? Fifty Shades of Gray? Times and tastes change and I don’t always want to be following the herd. I need to write what moves me and inspired me to be an author from the start. The honesty that I write about in my books is what enables me to get up at 5:30 a.m. to write. Sometimes my main characters make mistakes, just like me. I like displaying the truth and complexities of my characters’ lives. But everything can’t just be about creation. I also need to take my author career and treat it like a business. I need to show up, write regularly, publish books and market them well. Having the tension between creativity and selling can be a challenge sometimes, but I choose to see it as a healthy struggle. I hope you do as well. Have questions? Feel free to contact me.
Ron Vitale is a fantasy, science fiction and nonfiction author. He’s written the Cinderella’s Secret Witch Diaries series, the Witch’s Coven series, book one in the Jovian Gate Chronicles, and the Werewhale Saga. His first nonfiction book, How to Be a Successful Author While Working Full-Time: The Secret to Work/Life Balance is also now available. When not writing, Ron loves spending time with his kids even when they beat him in the fun card game Kittens in a Blender.